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(The Philosopher of the Hobo Life) 


The Message of Economic Freedom 


Why work six days a week when you 
can get your living by working one ? 


Pamphlet Collection 
Duke University Library 


We are living in a world where it ought to be pos- 
sible for everyone to get the necessary food, clothing, 
and shelter easily and quickly. We have ample re- 
sources of timber, coal, oil and agricultural lands to 
supply all our needs. Modern machinery enables us 
to do our work largely by power derived from coal, 
oil or waterfall. Yet the great mass of people are 
working all their lines to get a living, and many even 
lack the necessaries of life. 

In a Democracy such conditions can only exist 
while the majority remain in ignorance of the pos- 
sibilities of modern industry. Lester F. Ward, in his 
"Applied Sociology" sums up the whole matter by 
saying that if a man wants to help the human family, 
he should devote his life to spreading among the 
people some of the accumulation of knowledge on 
Sociology and Economics which we have in our Col- 
leges and Universities. Such is the aim of the 
author in writing and distributing this little book. 

The development of modern civilization is held 
back largely because most people spend all their 
lives working, and have no time for education and 
the higher things of life. We ought, however, to get 
our living working very little, if we only went about 
it in the right way. One day a week or about fifty 
days in the year should supply all our needs. Thus 
the greater part of our time would be set free for 
developing a race of men capable of supporting a 
higher and better civilization than the world has 
ever seen before. 


Philosophy is an inquiry into the meaning of life. 
Its practical aim to to teach us to live better lives. 
While most of the philosophy of antiquity is value- 
lees because not based on fact, yet we have received 
from the ancient Greeks two great principles both 
valuable for the study in this book. 

1. To accept no institution or idea, however 
ancient or venerable it may be, but to inquire into 
everything; to test all by truth or merit. This is 
known as the Socratic method, and for applying 
this to the customs and traditions of his age, 
Socrates was compelled to drink the cup of hem- 
lock. The use of this method in recent times has 
laid the foundation of modern science, with its tre- 
mendous gifts to mankind: steam, electricity, tele- 
graphs, telephones, automobiles and aeroplanes. 
Yet for applying the same method to our social in- 
stitutions, right here in America today, men are 
being persecuted, jailed and murdered. When we 
do, similar great advances may be expected, as in 
our industrial life. War, millionaires, poverty, 
crime, and many other evils will be abolished, but 
the greatest advance of all will be the emancipation 
of the worker from the slavery of the job. 

2. The application of this principle to the things 
which we use in our daily life. A little thought will 
enable us to distinguish those things which are nec- 
essary to man's welfare and happiness from those 
which are merely a matter of custom or prejudice. 
Most of the so-called luxuries and comforts of life 
are but counters (i. e., counterfeit coins) for which 

we have been taught to sacrifice our true inherit- 
ance of dignity and leisure. By eliminating these 
we can minimize our needs so as to have to spend 
very little time in the money-making pursuits of 
farm, factory or market place and so have the 
maximum time for the pleasure of real living. To 
demonstrate this principle the Philosopher Diogenes 
used to go about the country simply attired, eating 
plain foods, and sleeping sometimes on the porches 
of temples and sometimes carrying with him a 
barrel to sleep in. 


To find out exactly how long it is necessary for 
a man to work to get his living, David Henry 
Thoreau, the greatest philosopher that America has 
produced, went into the woods by Walden Pond. 
He there cleared a piece of ground, built himself 
a hut and made his living by growing beans, pota- 
toes, corn, etc., producing enough for his own wants 
and a surplus to exchange for the things he needed 
to buy. He tells us at the end of his experiment, 
"For more than five years I have maintained my- 
self thus solely by the labor of my hands, and I 
found that by working about six weeks in the year 
I could meet all expenses of living." This is a 
little less than fifty days or about one day a week. 

One of the most sacred experiences the writer 
has ever had was at Walden Pond, when he added 
one stone to the cairn of rocks that is rising on 
the ground where the hut of the sage stood. This 
cairn is a fitting monument to a rugged character, 
the value of whose tDachings the world today is 
only beginning to learn. 

— 3 — 


Before knowing of the work of Thoreau the 
writer had been making a similar experiment, but 
not in the woods as a hermit, but on the highway 
among the Hobos. The experiment started some- 
what accidentally out of a hike from Los Angeles 
to San Francisco to visit the Fair in 1915. Observ- 
ing numerous camps of Hobos along the road, his 
interest was aroused. After visiting the Fair he 
determined to find out something about them. For 
this purpose he went into the Sacramento Valley, 
where he lived in the "jungles" and worked picking 
grapes, peaches and hops. In about twenty-five 
days considerably more than enough was earned to 
pay all the expenses of a trip lasting over four 
months. This trip included a visit to Yosemite 
Valley, the climb of Mount Lassen, our only active 
volcano, and was continued as far north as Crater 
Lake, Oregon. 

Returning to Los Angeles, a longer trip was 
commenced which led ultimately right across the 
continent to Boston. No work was done on the 
journey to New Orleans. Between New Orleans 
and Chicago strawberry picking was followed for 
about two months, the berries being followed north 
as they ripened. Arriving at Chicago, several days' 
work was done digging ditches for the People's Gas 
Company. A move was then made to Columbus, 
Wisconsin, where about three weeks' work was 
done in a pea cannery. A few days' work was 
done on building jobs at Buffalo and at Boston. 

After these strenuous days it was decided to 

— 4 — 

Winter with the millionaires in Florida. The jour* 
ney south was made along the Atlantic Coast and 
extended as far as Palm Beach and Miami. The 
return was made around the north of Lake Ocho- 
chobee to Tampa, and thence around the Gulf of 
Mexico to New Orleans. From here a route was 
taken through the Allegheny Mountains, passing 
Birmingham, Chattanooga, Bristol, Knoxville, and 
through the Shenandoah Valley, thence by way of 
Philadelphia and New York to Boston. On this 
trip Only a few days' work was done, the expenses 
being paid out of savings made the previous sum- 
mer. Several involuntary visits were made to 
southern jails and on one occasion the writer had 
to serve twenty days on a negro chain-gang for 
the crime of being a "walking tourist." 

This trip completed about two years' wanderings, 
the whole expense of which was paid by working 
about one hundred days as recorded here. Thus the 
writer demonstrated that it is possible, living the life 
of the Hobos, and working as they work to get one's 
living by working about fifty days in the year or 
one day a week. This idea the author sometimes 
calls the Hobo Philosophy; and as he goes through 
the country teaching it he is sometimes called the 
"Hobo Philosopher." 

The period of the experiment was the two years 
previous to the entry of America into the World 
War. Work was usually easily obtainable but wages 
were low, averaging about two and a half dollars 
a day. By cooking one's meals at a camp fire 
"jungling up" a careful man could live well on 
thirty cents a day. With flour at eight cents a 

— 5 — 

pound, a little baking powder and a rind of bacon 
to grease the pan, sufficient flapjacks for a meal 
could be made for five cents. With rolled oats at 
six cents a pound, some canned milk and a little 
sugar, enough mush for a meal can be had for 
about six cents. With beans at ten cents a pound, 
and a little salt-pork and onion and bread, a sub- 
stantial meal can be made for ten cents. With ten 
cents' worth of meat, some potatoes, onion and 
bread, two substantial meals can be made for about 
thirteen cents each. 

As to outfit, the cooking utensils carried con- 
sisted of a frying pan, which served as a plate as 
well as for frying, one knife, fork and spoon, one 
can holding about a pint for making coffee, two 
cans holding about two quarts, used for cooking 
mulligan beans, rice, fruit, etc. These cans have 
air-tight tops, so that they can be used for carrying 
water, and also as a tireless cooker by wrapping in a 
sweater while traveling during the day. These 
things, together with a sleeping bag, a change of 
underclothes and a few sundries are carried in a 
Canadian pack-bag similar to that used by the 
Alaskan miners. The whole outfit including a 
week's supply of food will weigh forty pounds. 
Without food and cooking utensils, fifteen pounds. 
The sleeping bag is just a woolen quilt sewn up in 
the form of a bag. It slips inside another bag 
made of balloon silk, in order to keep it dry. In 
cold weather another bag made out of a light blan- 
ket is slipped inside the quilt. In very cold weather 
a fire is necessary at night. On a wet night the 
open porch of a church or school or any other dry 

— 6 — 

place is used to spread the bag. The carrying of a 
tent "was early abandoned, as it was usually found 
easier on a wet night to find a dry place to spread 
one's bed, than to pitch a tent. As for clothes a 
complete outfit of khaki clothes with boots and 
underclothes can be bought for about twenty dol- 
lars. This with about the same amount for repairs 
and replacements will last a year. An expense of 
about ten cents a day. 

Thus far we have seen that if a man is willing 
to reduce his wants to somewhere near his needs, 
he can get his living by working about one day a 
week. Such a life, however, is used here rather to 
teach a lesson from than to urge its practice. It 
can be used, however, by the individual as a means 
of escape from the slavery of the job, but its ap- 
plication to the whole of society under modern 
conditions is not possible. The solution socially, 
however, will need a little study in 


Economics is the science which deals with the 
production and distribution of wealth. What answer 
has this science to the question: Why do the 
majority of mankind spend all their time in the 
struggle for food, clothing and shelter, thus living 
in a hopeless, grinding slavery to the mere cost of 

When men had nothing but hand tools to work 
with, they were easily able to produce enough to 
maintain themselves, and a few others who did no 
work such as the King, the nobility and the priest- 
hood. In recent times the introduction of ma- 
chinery has tremendously increased the productivity 

-•7— . 

of human labor. Kropotkin, in his "Conquest ot 
Bread," tells us that one hundred men, working 
two or three months with modern machinery can 
produce enough bread to feed ten thousand people 
for a year; that one hundred men working in a 
modern factory can produce enough clothing for 
ten thousand people for two years; that one hun- 
dred miners can produce enough coal for ten thou- 
sand families. Logically, this increased productivity 
(conservatively estimated as ten-fold) ought to have 
materially shortened the hours of human labor. 
Yet, notwithstanding this, the great mass of the 
human family are today working harder and longer 
than they did before any machinery existed. 

The heart of our trouble today lies in our having 
allowed private ownership in the big industries of 
the country. Under such conditions the workers 
are compelled in order to live to sell their labor 
power, and for this commodity they will receive, as 
is paid for every other commodity, the cost of pro- 
duction, i. e., enough money to buy sufficient food, 
clothing and shelter, to live and reproduce their 
kind. The Iron Law of Wages. All that the work- 
ers produce beyond this must go to the owners. 
Hence the increased productivity brought about by 
modern machinery, has gone not to the workers, 
but to the owners of the machinery, and will con- 
tinue so to go, so long as we allow private owner- 
ship of the socially used means of production. 

As a business proposition the American people 
(and they pride themselves on their business abil- 
ity) ought immediately, by the right of "Eminent 
Domain" to take over the properties owned by the 

great industrial combinations, , giving the present 
owners bonds payable during a term of years in 
exchange for them. When the bondholders are 
paid off the people would own these industries free 
from all incumbrances. It would then no longer be 
necessary to work to produce wealth for the own- 
ers and a tremendous shortening of the hours of 
labor could be brought about. 

The proportion of their time that the workers 
work to produce wealth for the owners is uncer- 
tain. Some claim that as high as eighty per cent 
goes to capital, others only forty per cent. A very 
conservative estimate would be a fifty-fifty division 
between capital and labor. If this is correct then 
the workers work three days a week to produce 
their wages and three days to produce wealth for 
the owners. Under social ownership, other things 
remaining the same, the hours of labor could be 
reduced from six to three days a week. 

This reform having been completed, considerable 
additional saving in the hours of labor could be 
expected from two different sources. 

1. Increased efficiency, such as: 

(a) The abandonment of many of the most in- 
efficient plants, and the working of the efficient 
plants continuously by shifts of men. 

(b) The replacing of human labor by machinery 
wherever possible. 

(c) The converting of our coal into power and 
gas right in the mines. 

(d) The development of all the water power of 
the country, of which only about seven per cent 
is developed today. 

— 9 — . 

(e) The electrification of all the railroads. It is 
estimated that a saving of at least half the labor 
would thereby be made. 

(f) The abandonment of our existing chaotic 
method of distribution of products, with its multi- 
tude of jobbers, commission men and wholesalers, 
advertising and traveling men, together with the 
millions of wasteful competitive stores, and replac- 
ing them by "Consumers Cooperatives" obtaining 
supplies direct from farm and factory, and distrib- 
uting direct to consumers. 

These and many other improvements which could 
be suggested ought easily to increase efficiency by 
one-third. Thus the hours of labor already reduced 
to three per week could be further reduced to two. 

2. Putting everybody to productive work. About 
one-half of the people above ten years of age re- 
ported themselves as having no occupation at the 
last U. S. census. They consist of several groups: 

(a) Millionaires — few in number — but maintaining 
armies of men and women to attend to their wants; 
to build and maintain palaces, hotels, yachts, auto- 
mobiles, etc.; to clothe, feed and amuse them. 

(b) The ordinary "tired" bum as distinguished 
from the former, the "rubber-tired" bum, the man 
who will not work if he could, preferring to get his 
living by begging or crime. 

(c) The unemployed worker, willing to work but 
unable to find it. Under our wage system of in- 
dustry there must be, except in periods of unusual 
activity, a reserve army of unemployed workers. 

(d) The army of men who work but not pro- 
ductively. Some are just paiasites, exploiting the 

— 10- 

workers of the community, some doing destructive 
work. Soldiers, sailors, preachers, politicians, law- 
yers, policemen, etc. 

(e) The women also should do their share of the 
productive work of the world, except of course 
when child-bearing or child-rearing. 

It is evident that if everybody were engaged in 
productive work the numbers of workers would be 
doubled and thus the hours of labor already reduced 
to two days a week could be reduced to one. 


There has grown up in recent years a new pro- 
fession, the efficiency expert or engineer. Three 
of the best known of these men are perhaps Messrs. 
F. W. Taylor, H. L. Gantt and Walter N. Polakov. 
At first these men directed their efforts to making 
the workers more efficient, as for instance by teach- 
ing bricklayers to lay brick with the least number 
of motions possible. This was, however, soon 
abandoned as it was found that the amount of time 
so lost was as nothing compared with what was 
lost by managerial inefficiency. The writer had the 
fortune to attend a course of lectures by Mr. Pola- 
kov in which among many other things he gave a 
report of a survey of existing American machinery 
made by him in conjunction with Mr. Gantt. They 
found that half the existing machinery was idle all 
the time, and the other half working about half 
time or at half efficiency. He gave it as his 
opinion that American industry is seventy-five per 
cent inefficient; that we were producing only about 
a quarter of what we could produce; that if we did 
not want more than we are producing today, we 

— 11 — 

ought to produce it by working a fourth of the time 
we work or about one day and a half a week. If 
efficiency could reduce the hours of labor this much 
the putting of all the idle to work could easily 
reduce it to one day a week. Thus we get back 
again by way of the "Efficiency Engineer" to our 
original proposition, that instead of working six 
days a week we could get our living with modern 
machinery used efficiently, by working about one 
day a week or fifty days in the year. 


1. Can a man support a wife and family by 
working one day a week? 

Yes; but a little foresight is necessary before 
marriage, instead of the hindsight that most people 
use after. 

The best method I know for a man with a wife 
and family is to get one or two acres of land near 
a city, build a home, plant fruit and nut trees, grow 
vegetables enough for family use. To produce 
enough surplus to exchange for those things need- 
ed from the outside some special line should be 
taken up such as poultry, bees, hares, mushrooms, 
flowers, or nursery work. A few pleasant hours' 
work daily, averaging about fifty days a year by 
both husband and wife, should easily supply all 
needs. But it may be objected, this would need 
at least two thousand dollars. Yes, indeed! The 
man who has not got the ability and thrift to save 
two thousand dollars has no business raising a 
family. He shows his mentality to be that of a 
child of twelve years old or less, and ought not to 

— 12 — 

be allowed to reproduce the human race. Improvi- 
dent marriages on the Dollar Down and Dollar a 
Week plan are the bane of America today. 

2. How could the work of a farm be done by 
working one day a week? 

Farming is today the most backward industry. 
The farmer is still trailing across the field behind 
a mule, while a great waterfall is going to waste 
in the distance which could be doing his ploughing 
for him. Henry Ford is teaching the farmers how 
to get their living by working thirty days a year 
with a tractor. In the future the staple crops will 
be grown cooperatively, over great tracts of country 
work by electrically driven machinery. Gangs of 
men will go out from their homes during the farm- 
ing season, each man working about fifty days in 
the year. Many small farms will of course sur- 
vive, but they will be homes rather than commer- 
cial undertakings. 

3. How could a store keeper get his living by 
working one day a week? 

It will be done when all the store keepers in a 
particular business learn to cooperate to do their 
business instead of fight each other in doing it. 
They could then abandon the greater number of 
their stores, and do the same business better in the 
remaining stores with perhaps one-sixth of the 
labor. The multitude of small competitive stores 
today are mostly parasitic. They are gradually 
being eliminated by the big department stores in 
America, and by the cooperative stores in Europe. 
Today, they are mostly traps for separating some 
foolish worker from his lifetime savings. 

— 13 — 


Sufficient has now been said to demonstrate that 
it is not necessary for a man to work all his life 
to get a living. Thoreau's experiment by Walden 
Pond, the author's experiment among the Hobos, 
the teachings of economics, reinforced by the opin- 
ion of the Efficiency Engineers, all go to show that 
a man can get his living by working about one 
day a week or fifty days in the year, and that as a 
result of education we shall all do so ultimately. 
When that day comes we shall all have time for 
real living, time to read, think, study and learn 
something of this wonderful world in which we 
live; time to travel and enjoy some of its beauties; 
time to cultivate a hobby, worth while, such as art, 
drama, music, painting, sculpture; time for religion, 
and even time for play. 

But it may be objected that spare time for most 
people would only be time for idleness and vice. 
Mental tests applied to the men drafted in the war, 
showed that about half of them had the mentality 
of a child of twelve years old or less. Such men 
are incapable of culture, and spare time to them 
would mean idleness and vice. Social welfare work 
should be organized to teach them to make the best 
use of their time. In the future, however, this 
class of people should be eliminated by preventing 
them reproducing their kind. Today they are re- 
producing freely, whilst the more intelligent limit 
their families, resulting in degeneration of the race. 
In Europe this problem has led to the development 
of two classes, one of low mentality, working all 
the time to get a living, the other of higher men- 

— 14 — 

tality who mostly do not work to get a living, but 
devote their time to those things comprised under 
the general term of culture. Today, when a man 
can do as much work with a machine as one hun- 
dred men could do with their hands in the past, 
there is no need for a "working class." If we 
would eliminate the mentally deficient we could 
build up in America a civilization such as the world 
has never seen before, not built on "slavery" as 
in ancient Greece, nor on a "working class" as in 
Europe today, but built on the principle that every- 
one doing his share of the necessary work of the 
world, should have time and opportunity for culture. 

Since the journeys spoken of in the earlier part 
of this book, the writer has made several trans- 
continental hikes. 

The first from Boston to Los Angeles opened with 
a trip through New England, in which the coast 
was followed as far as Mount Desert Island, thence 
across the White and Green Mountains to Lake 
Champlain. Then south, around Lake George 
through the Berkshires back to Boston. New York, 
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, 
Dallas, El Paso, Phoenix, Yuma, San Diego, show 
the general route taken to Los Angeles. Many of 
the beauty spots of New England were visited. 
Some pretty scenery was noticed crossing the Alle- 
gheny Mountains. New Mexico and Arizona gave 
the added interest of desert travel. This trip 
lasted about eight months, covering about five 
thousand miles. 

The second trip was from California to New York. 
Leaving Los Angeles in June the summer was spent 
— 15 — 

in the Sierra-Nevada and Rocky Mountains. Yose- 
mite Park "was visited, Mount Dana climbed and 
Lake Tahoe circled, all in the Sierras. After cross- 
ing Nevada and Idaho, Yellowstone Park with its 
wonderful geysers and the Rocky Mountain Na- 
tional Park were visited. The fall was spent trav^ 
eling through Colorado, Texas and Louisiana to 
New Orleans. From here the Gulf of Mexico was 
followed to Florida, where the extreme point vis- 
ited during the winter was Fort Meyers. The 
spring travel was through the Southern States, 
Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Ken- 
tucky, whilst the summer was spent wandering 
through Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New 
Jersey. The journey was completed on the arrival 
in New York in the fall. 

Spending the winter in New York the start of the 
third trip was made in May. The coast was followed 
east as far as Boston, and then turning west 
across the Berkshires, Albany was visited. The 
general direction of the Mohawk River was fol- 
lowed to Buffalo, thence south of the Great Lakes 
to Chicago. The latter was left late in the fall and 
a bee line made for New Orleans. The spring was 
spent wandering through Louisiana, Texas, Okla- 
homa, Arkansas, Kansas, and Missouri. The sum- 
mer was spent visiting Chicago, Milwaukee, Minne- 
apolis, Des Moines, Omaha City, Kansas City and 
the intervening country. The winter was spent in 
Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, 
and California, arriving in Los Angeles early in 
January. This trip covered about ten thousand 
miles, and lasted twenty months. 

— 16 — 

The next trip, commencing at Los Angeles, was 
up the Pacific Coast as far as Vancouver, B. C. The 
main road was followed, visiting San Francisco, 
Oakland, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle. Early 
in May a start was made from Vancouver, across 
Canada. Following the Frazer River to the moun- 
tains, several ranges were crossed, leading success- 
ively to the valleys of the Okanagan, Kettle and 
Columbia Rivers. The latter was crossed at the out- 
let of the Arrow Lakes. From here the general direc- 
tion of the Kooteney River was followed to Lakes 
Columbia and Windermere. The new road was taken 
from Windermere to Banff, and thence on to Calgary. 
The scenery along the border was much appreciated, 
but the Canadian Rockies, although very beautiful, 
did not come up to expectations. Good roads were 
found on all this part of the trip except the first cross- 
ing of the Cascades from Hope to Princeton, which 
was made by trail, and from Nelson to Kooteney 
Landing, which had to be made by boat. On the prai- 
ries besides Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Moose 
Jaw, Regina and Winnipeg, were visited. From the 
latter, to avoid the bad travel through Northern On- 
tario, the route was partly in Canada and partly 
through North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and 
Michigan. Grand Forks, Fargo, Duluth, Port Arthur, 
Houghton, Sault Ste. Marie, Bay City and Port Huron 
will show the route taken to Southern Ontario, where 
Toronto was reached in November. Spending the 
winter resting and studying in Philadelphia and 
Washington, a return was made to Toronto in the 
spring, where the journey was resumed to Ottawa, 
Montreal, Quebec and Halifax, thus completing the 
trip across Canada. 

The writer hopes at an early date to cross the 
water, and after visiting most of the European coun- 
tries, to hike across Russia and Siberia, and thus 
complete a trip around the world. 


Roger Payne, often called the Hobo Philosopher, 
was born at Aldershot, England, January 27, 1874. 
After serving an apprenticeship to the drug trade 
and obtaining some experience as a clerk, he 
studied at the School of Pharmacy, London. Here 
he became qualified as a Pharmaceutical Chemist 
and won the certificate of honor in chemistry. 

Continuing the study of science at Gonville and 
Caius College, Cambridge, he obtained a B. A. de- 
gree. As the result of a post-graduate course in 
law, he also received an LL. B. degree. Joining 
the Inner Temple at London, he became qualified 
to be called to the English bar. Desiring, how- 
ever, a more out-of-door life, he became interested 
in the real estate and contracting business. At the 
same time he traveled considerably in England and 
on the Continent of Europe. 

Coming to America in 1908, he spent seven years 
in building construction work. Since then he has 
spent his time traveling and teaching as recorded 
in this book. 

Published by the Author at Fellowship Farm, 
Puente, Calif., where additional copies can be 
obtained, ten cents each, post-paid, or twelve fc» 
one dollar.